Background on Gay Adoption and the Largent Anti-Gay Adoption Amendment

July 28, 1999 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Blogger Tumblr

Largent Amendment Background:

The Largent amendment will limit adoptions in the District of Columbia to married couples and single-parent individuals. The bill is aimed at stopping same-sex couples from jointly adopting children, and an extraordinary overreach of federal power into dictating child adoptive policy.

The reality of adoption policy in general is this – there are way more children than there are good homes available for them. Those children that are not placed in a loving home are condemned to a childhood in state-run institutions.

The Largent amendment further narrows the pool of prospective loving homes for children who need them in the District of Columbia, an urban jurisdiction where child dislocation is particularly acute. As strong supporters of good, strong families and opponents of state-run child raising, we call on Republicans in the House to stand with us and oppose this cruel proposal.

All of the best research available has shown that gay parents make good, loving parents as often as heterosexual parents, and that sexual orientation plays no role in the quality of a prospective adoptive parent.

Adoption, Foster Care and Gay Parents

by Richard Tafel


In Massachusetts in the mid 1980's then Governor Michael Dukakis (D) enacted a policy that placed a categorical ban on gays serving as adoptive or foster care parents. In fact, the Dukakis administration went so far as to remove a child out of the home of a gay foster parent over the objections of caseworkers, as it was by all objective measures a successful original placement. Eventually, the state Supreme Court overturned the Dukakis order, but only after the child was sexually abused while in the care of heterosexual foster parents.

In 1998, anti-gay organizations launched a nationwide campaign to politicize this issue by introducing legislation around the country which would ban gays from being considered as adoptive or foster care parents under any circumstances.

The Facts on Adoptive and Foster Parenting in America:

Today, only Florida maintains a categorical ban on gays serving as adoptive or foster parents. [New Hampshire repealed its ban in 1999.] A New Jersey court enacted a policy in 1998 evaluating gay adoptive parents by the same criteria as married couples. In the rest of the states, judging the best parent and best home for each child in the foster care and adoptive system is based on a case-by-case review. The interest of the child, not the parent, is the guiding principle for placements in all states but Florida. This issue is a child rights issue, not a gay rights issue. All parties agree that the best interest of the child should determine placement.

In 1997, the Child Welfare League of America estimated there were 500,000 children in America in foster care homes. Of those, 100,000 need to be adopted, but in 1997 there were only 20,000 adoptive parents available (Petit, M. & Curtis, P. Child Abuse and Neglect: A Look at the States, 1997 CWLA Stat Book, Child Welfare League of America, Washington, DC 1997, p. 72, 124.). These children are often viewed as "unadoptable" because they are often minority children or adolescents and/or may have significant health problems. (In the Child's Best Interest: Defending Fair and Sensible Adoption Policies, April 1998, ACLU, p. 1-2.) These children end up floating between foster homes throughout their childhood.

Gays as Adoptive Parents:

Those who would make the case that every child must be placed under all circumstances in a male-female parent home are, in essence, condemning tens of thousands of children to institutionalized parenting, not real homes. Most states either formally or informally place heterosexual couples at the top of a priority list as adoptive parents. The fact is there has never been enough of these parents to meet the needs of the children living in institutions or foster homes. The choice for state child service agents is between a child living in an institution or being placed in the home of two caring, loving adults who have been judged as good prospective adoptive parents.

While proponents of gay adoption and foster care bans argue that gay parents make inherently bad parents, they can point to no study to back up their claims. In fact, studies done on children in gay homes have found that the only measurable difference in the outcome is that those children tend to be more tolerant of differences as they mature. Underlying much of the argument of social conservatives is that gays will either molest or "recruit" children under their care to homosexuality. Again, this is based in pure prejudice, not science. In fact, studies show that among the total number of children sexually abused in foster or adoptive care, 99.3% were in the care of heterosexual parents. The myth of gays "recruiting" is disproved by simply looking at all of the gay people today who grew up in the care of heterosexual parents. There is not one study which shows any connection between being gay and having gay parents.

Every scientific study has shown that gays make excellent adoptive parents. For this reason, America's largest child welfare organization, the Child Welfare League of America recommends no categorical bans on gay parents. They recommend that pubic health officials, not politicians, make these decisions on a case-by-case basis, based on a thorough background check and home study.

The Real Choice Between a Home or the Government:

Anti-gay prejudice enacted into public policy will deny the opportunity of needy children to be placed in loving, qualified homes, leaving them to spend the rest of their childhoods in government-supported institutions. When political leaders announce their blanket opposition to gay parenting, they invariably set in motion legislative initiatives toward categorical bans on various groups. This legislative term it may be gay parents, next legislative term it may be single parents, and it is unclear where such political meddling in child welfare will end. Once this child welfare issue becomes a political issue, the dangers multiply. Political advice that there is no downside to announcing opposition to adoption or foster care by gay parents is not based in fact. From the most objective standpoint, it is damaging to children and can raise doubts about a leader's grasp of child welfare issues.

The Proper Response:

Political and government leaders must always articulate that this is a child welfare issue, not a political football. Public health agencies should always keep the interest of the child first and foremost. But this should be done on a case by case basis trusting the professionals that the state hires or appoints to make these decisions. If the health care officials are shown to put children in unhealthy situations of any kind, those officials should be replaced. We must not allow this issue to becomean opportunity to pander to social conservatives to win points at the expense of children that, in some cases, society has forgotten about.

Richard L. Tafel was Director of Adolescent Health Services (1991-1993) for Governor William Weld (R-MA).